Jeep, as part of parent company Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles’ belated move into the electrified car marketplace, is the first marque in the group to gain a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, called the Renegade 4xe.
A plug-in hybrid Jeep Renegade, with the new 4xe branding that will be used on both part-electric versions of the Compass crossover and the Wrangler off-roader. It’s not certain that the Wrangler 4xe will make it to these parts, but the other two most certainly will. In the case of the Renegade 4xe, there are two versions, both of which employ a 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine along with a belt-integrated starter generator up front, a 44kW electric motor at the rear and 11.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack that is mounted in the transmission tunnel – as there’s no physical drive shaft between the two axles, despite the Renegade’s four-wheel-drive status.
Choose from a more road-oriented Limited model or a rough-and-tumble Trailhawk variant, and the difference in outputs from the 1.3-litre engine changes: the former has 130hp, the latter 180hp. This, in turn, leads to overall drivetrain outputs of 190hp for the 4xe Limited and 240hp for the 4xe Trailhawk, making the ultimate Renegade hybrid the most powerful model of Jeep’s boxy machine yet released. That means a 0-100km/h time of 7.3 seconds for a Trailhawk (7.5 seconds for the 190hp 4xe), although the real benefit of any Renegade 4xe is the 52g/km of CO2 emissions and fuel consumption that is claimed to be as low as 2.3 litres/100km (122.8mpg). There’s also 50km of fully electric range on offer from the 44kW electric motor.
Visually, the Renegade 4xe models are hard to spot, as on the outside they are only distinguished by blue-tinged badgework and a second ‘fuel filler’ flap for the electric charging port on the nearside of the vehicle. Inside, it’s additional displays for the 8.4-inch infotainment, some added functionality for the digital TFT screen in the instrument cluster and extra hybrid-related switchgear and buttons in and around the centre console. In terms of practicality, a Jeep Renegade 4xe is as spacious within as any other model in the range, save for the fact it loses 20 litres of boot space due to an AC/DC converter being housed in the back of the car.
How is it to drive?
It’s perfectly proficient but not particularly startling, as plug-in hybrids go. In the ‘positives’ column are plenty of things – the ride quality is excellent, rolling refinement is pretty good from the tyres and the drivetrain, and the engine itself doesn’t sound too noisy if you don’t venture beyond about 3,000rpm. There’s plenty of grip from the chassis and tyres (more from the Limited, as the Trailhawk has off-road-optimised tyres that aren’t as capable on tarmac as the tyres on the Limited) and the performance feels about as strong as Jeep is claiming. Furthermore, we managed to achieve a good 45km of electric range out of the Renegade 4xe without driving it particularly carefully on a challenging test route, so its eco-credentials aren’t in any doubt.
However, Jeep makes a big play about the fact this is a fast Renegade (including the fact that selecting Sport mode actually relaxes the 4xe’s traction control system) and it would be nice if the hybrid managed to drive sweetly. Sadly, there’s too much body lean and too uninformative steering for that, plus the sensation of weight on the rear axle is all too pronounced during cornering. At a steady cruising rate on the motorway, the Jeep’s USP – its appealingly boxy shape – means it sadly generates excessive wind noise around the windscreen and large door mirrors, so it’s not the most refined of vehicles once it is out of town. Perhaps the most annoying feature, though, is the six-speed automatic gearbox connected to the petrol engine. Jeep has a nine-speed auto at its disposal but selected the six-speed unit on the basis it offers better control for off-roading; that’s as maybe, but we also suspect cost and packaging issues were to blame for the decision and the result is that the automatic transmission is all too often hesitant when you don’t need it to be. It feels like a really archaic gearbox in this day and age, which is at odds with the Jeep’s cutting-edge hybrid status.
Finishing on a happier note, the Renegade 4xe is as good off-road as Jeep claims it is. Nothing this side of a Land Rover Defender, apart from possibly the Suzuki Jimny, is as capable as the Renegade, which will do surprisingly tough stuff away from the asphalt if you want it to. No other remotely comparable B-segment crossover could hope to get near it in this regard.
When is it coming to Ireland?
It is due to land in the first quarter of 2021, but prices and specs haven’t been confirmed yet. However, its low CO2 figures will play into our hands in Ireland, as that will keep the VRT to a minimum and so result in a list price that could place the 4xe near the bottom of the Renegade’s line-up. In other markets, the hybrid version is much more expensive than normal Renegades, so that limits its appeal somewhat, but if the pricing and spec are right here, it could be a lot more tempting.
Any juicy technology?
One interesting piece of tech is the ‘DIY’ home Wallbox that is provided through Engie, the partner to Jeep for the Renegade 4xe. While there is an optional 7.4kW charger that can be installed at home for Renegade 4xe customers, this will require a qualified electrician to plug it in. But a 3kW Wallbox is also available and this simply plugs into a three-pin domestic socket, upping the output to a maximum 3kW. It can be mounted easily using only two screws and it is even IP54 water-resistant, so if you have a good, sheltered point outdoors where you can mount it and get access to a domestic socket, you can install your own Wallbox charging point for your Jeep hybrid: this is a ‘first’ in the automotive industry, as far as we can tell.
Carzone.ie rating: 3.5/5
A fine first attempt at a plug-in hybrid, there are a few rough edges to the Jeep Renegade 4xe that hold it back from greatness. Jeep aficionados who love the Renegade’s cubist form and who have always wanted a more economical, cheaper-to-tax version will be fine with it, as will those who need to venture off-road from time to time, but for everyone else who drives mainly on tarmac, there are more cultured and refined hybrids available at the Jeep’s likely price point than the 4xe.